Kirkland Mayor Michel Gibson is pleased with the progress of the planning of the long-awaited north-south urban boulevard which will serve residents in Kirkland and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.
He told the West Island Gazette that the team discussing technical matters connected to the build have already met 10 times and the working group with representatives from the various levels of government have met five times.
“It’s going very well,” Gibson said. “We want to build as soon as possible.”
Gibson said the artery, to be built along the Highway 440 servitude, is urgently needed to allow for smooth access to the future Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light-rail station which is slated to be built at the site of the RioCan shopping Centre in Kirkland. The $13.5 million road project is to include the construction of an overpass at Highway 40, something Gibson has been insisting upon for years.
Last week it was announced that the $6.3 billion REM light-rail project will break ground in April. The first phase is scheduled to be operational in 2021. Six of the network’s stations will serve the West Island.
Land is being expropriated to make room for the station at the RioCan site and the company Broccolini has purchased 50 per cent of the remaining land for future development. Gibson said public consultations are ongoing as to what shape the development might take.
Tangentially, the building of the boulevard has caused some controversy. When completed, it would run from Highway 40 to Gouin Blvd. As such, the road would serve as a main access point for a proposed residential development at its northern-most point in Pierrefonds. Talk of development in the sector has caused an enormous brouhaha for years.
“The urban boulevard is a must for the REM project,” Gibson said. “It’s important to understand that the urban boulevard and the (proposed) development of Pierrefonds West are two different things.”
The proposed plan to develop 185 hectares of land in Pierrefonds West is fiercely opposed by environmentalists who say it would destroy a significant natural green space on the island.
As far as Gibson is concerned, that’s an issue for Montreal and the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro to handle.
“What happens to the Pierrefonds West sector is up to Montreal (and the borough),” Gibson said. “If they decide to keep (the area) a green space or if they develop it, it’s their choice. What happens in their house is their business. What happens in our house is our business. We need the boulevard to help ease the congestion on St-Charles Blvd. and to get people to the train station.”
Activists opposed to the development of Pierrefonds West were shocked earlier this month when the proposed project was mentioned in Montreal’s three-year capital-works program. And the proposed project was mentioned in connection with the building of the urban boulevard. Mayor Valérie Plante had promised during her campaign to block the proposed residential project.
“It’s a mistake that the (proposed project) made it into the document,” Gibson said. “(Plante) has to get it removed. She has said to us that she is blocking the project.”
Gibson does have two concerns which he raised during a recent meeting with the Montreal Finance and Administration Commission. One concern has to do with Phase 1 of what will be a two-phase build.
“Phase 1 must extend all the way to Antoine-Faucon St. and not just to the train station (as planned),” Gibson said. “Otherwise traffic accessing the station will jam St-Charles Blvd. and the side streets. And we also need to nail down a timeline. Phase 1 must be finished in time for the arrival of the station.”